A 25-year Culpeper woman is in federal custody after the FBI says she went on the “dark web” to hire a hitman and paid using bitcoin.
Annie Nicole Ritenour was arrested Oct. 27 and charged with solicitation to commit a crime of violence and murder-for-hire, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office Western District of Virginia. If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison.
According to court documents, Ritenour placed an “order” on the dark web with a murder-for-hire site. The defendant reportedly created an account with the website advertising the services and deposited approximately $3,200 in bitcoin to hire a hitman to kill her intended victim, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
To further assist with her “order,” Ritenour uploaded photos of her intended victim, as well as other personal information, including their place of employment, type of vehicle they own, and the best time and place to kill them, the release stated.
“This case highlights the need for more intense federal enforcement of the cyber security protocols of the internet,” U.S. Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh said in a statement. “Our office has made cybercrime a priority for this exact reason, and this murder-for-hire plot serves as an example of why we need to remain vigilant in the policing of those dark corners of the web where cybercrime thrives.”
Upon learning of the murder-for-hire plot, the FBI moved quickly to ensure the safety of the intended victim and identified Ritenour as the person responsible for the threat, Acting Special Agent in Charge Neil Mathison said in a statement.
“The FBI reminds the public that making threats online or using the dark web to hire someone to harm another has serious consequences, and we will work with our law enforcement partners and the United States Attorney’s Office to hold criminals accountable,” he said.
The dark web is a part of the internet made up of hidden sites not located through conventional web browsers. Browsers and search engines are designed specifically to unearth these hidden sites. Sites on the dark web, home to increased illegal activity, also use encryption software so that visitors and owners can remain anonymous and hide their location, according to the internet security company web site.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating the case involving the Culpeper woman. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald M. Huber is the prosecutor.